Political Differences

Conservatives and liberals obviously see things differently, but lately I’m impressed by how their differences reflect preferences for opposing sides of the same coin. On issues from Obamacare to no-fault divorce, from abortion to welfare, our reporting and commentary reflect a choice of one value over another.

For example, conservatives see the social changes of the last half century or so and focus on how there is less cohesion, less community and stability than there was before. Their priority might be the success of the group, not the safety of the individual. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”

(Ironically, conservatives seek to ensure the success of the group by preserving the freedom of the individual.)

Liberals will look at the same issues and focus on how some old problems have been at least partially alleviated for some people by the same changes. Their priority might be the safety of the individual, not the success of the group. “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.”

(Ironically, liberals seek to ensure the safety of the individual by engineering wholesale change in the group.)

Perhaps this is why conservative media is more likely to report on big-picture stories of societal decline and abuse of systems, whereas liberal media is more likely to report on intimate stories of individuals being abused, but ostensibly being helped by institutional evolution.

An honest conservative might look at liberal media and say something like this: “Yes, society’s changes of the last half century have helped some of the most needy people, BUT…” and then an explanation of why it’s not worth it.

An honest liberal might look at conservative media covering the same issues and say: “Yes, there have been major abuses of these changes that have hurt our social fabric, BUT…” and then an explanation of why it is worth it.

From the very beginning, with the generation of our Founders, there has been a tension between freedom and safety, and nobody even claims to know the perfect balance. I wonder if at least admitting what I’ve seen here is a productive step, though.

For my own part, I’ve long said that liberal goals can flourish in a basically conservative society, but not vice versa.

[Previous reflections on this topic here and here.]


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